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Canadians Are Wasting A Ton Of Money On Food Because We Don't Understand "Best Before" Dates

Costing us billions.
Canadians Are Wasting A Ton Of Money On Food Because We Don't Understand "Best Before" Dates

Okay guys, time for some real talk. I'm sure this one speaks to each of us on some level. 

Have you ever been going through your fridge to find a quick snack just to get frustrated and see that you missed the expiry date printed on your, let's say yogurt? 

Or maybe you mistakenly took a swig of sour milk, or found that your coffee cream rose to the top of your cup?

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This is something I am sure all of us have experienced to some degree. 

Expiration, or "Best Before" dates printed on our food items can be a tad bit confusing to Canadians. It seems that the majority of our population doesn't really get it. 

A new study in Canada is dealing with this exact issue has come out, as we are costing our economy tons of money and wasting a ton of great food as well. 

In fact, food waste in Canada costs us around $31B every year! This may sound extreme, and that is because it is! True fact.

The National Zero Waste Council blames this on the confusing, at times unnecessary, "Best Before" dates we print on some of our grocery items.

The study says that Canadians are among some of the biggest food wasters in the world! With a staggering total of 47% of food waste happening in our own homes. I know I am guilty of this. 

Global News did some coverage of this issue, and in a video, they asked some folks shopping in their local grocery store about the "best before" date on the food.

Those asked responded "if it is before the date, its good to go. Anything after I throw out." or some paraphrased version of the same statement. 

The problem here is that many of us don't actually understand that "best before" means exactly what it says. The item in question would be "best" before the date printed. 

Not expired. Not unsafe for consumption. This may seem like common sense, but you know deep down you're probably guilty, too!

The best before date printed on food just refers to the quality of the item before and after the date printed. Unless the package has been opened, they are totally safe to consume.

So why even bother printing the date in the first place? Because it relates to the best quality for that product - says Dr. Gary Sandberg, a food scientist. 

In Canada, "Best Before" dates must be printed on pre-packaged foods that will stay fresh for 90 days or less. Once the package is opened, the best before date is no longer valid. 

Here are some different examples. 

  • Milk - can last 7 days after the best before date, opened or unopened
  • Eggs - 3-4 weeks past the "sell by" date
  • Yogurt - lasts 7-10 days after it's been opened. 

"As long as the package hasn't been opened, then you're probably good for a certain amount of time afterward." - Dr. Gary Sandberg.

Now, expiration dates are a totally different story. They're not required on all foods, just special dietary use. Foods with these date markers should never be consumed after the printed expiration date. 

Can goods, so long as the can remains intact, stay fine for consumption well after the best before date, too. Just make sure the can isn't damaged in any way, but the food itself is fine - if only lacking some freshness in flavour. 

The problem here is simple confusion. 

So,  pay attention to the dates on your grocery items, and understand the differences between "Best Before" and "Expiry Date" or "Consumed by" dates - because they all hold different values. 

Having this knowledge moving forward will help to deter the amount of food waste we experience here in Canada. Much of it being foods that we tend to take for granted. 

We're in 2018, the world is changing, and we need to follow suit. 

@olio_exembedded via  

Same facts from the U.K. are true for Canada, as well!

Reducing our waste, specifically speaking in terms of food, is important - especially now that some of our most popular grocery items may become more expensive thanks to the impending trade wars between Canada and the U.S. 

Now, I still stand by the mentality that if something seems (or smells, rather) to be questionable, toss it. 

Still, being more mindful of what these dates actually mean, and thinking of what type of item it is can help save you some bucks and better our countries consumption as a whole. 

You can read the full study right hereSource 2.

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